Surgery to alleviate his back pain and injury is a possibility for Denny Hamlin later this season.
Hamlin said Thursday at Richmond Int’l Raceway he would entertain the possibility of undergoing surgery if his chances to make the Chase and compete for the Sprint Cup championship evaporate.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had hoped to be back behind the wheel of the FedEx Toyota this weekend at Richmond, but doctors did not clear him for competition.
Although Hamlin is shooting to come back for next week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, he understands the longer he’s sidelined the more difficult the challenge of qualifying for the Chase becomes. If there’s no chance at the title, Hamlin may indeed opt for surgery sooner rather than later.
“I think if this goes past Darlington then I don’t know what the chances of us making the Chase are even if we were to race this weekend, race next weekend or the one after -- I don’t know the chances,” said Hamlin. “There’s a lot of good teams that you have to beat to guarantee you’re going to win the races. Obviously, if it goes past Darlington our chances are crushed even harder. Eventually you have to have a shut down point of not going out there and racing for nothing at a point.
“I think a recovery on the kind of surgery that I would like to have is about a month-and-a-half or so -- I could potentially come back maybe for the tail end of the year. It wouldn’t be a season-ending -- I don’t think anything would be season-ending I guess you could say. Eventually you have to know the point at which you’re looking at improbabilities of making the Chase and just being smart about it.”
While Hamlin won’t be driving this weekend in Richmond, he’ll oversee Thursday night’s Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown late model event that will raise money for charity.
“It’s a different feel having today not driving and usually today is a very, very busy day -- similar to Tony (Stewart) his race that he’s had over the last few years -- you’re trying to drive and race and also put on a good show,” Hamlin explained. “It’s different. Have a little bit more time to check things out and help out guys here and there, but ultimately we’re here for a cause -- it’s not my cause -- it’s a lot of kids that are going to benefit from the race that happens tonight, so we’re excited about that part.”
In the meantime Hamlin will wait and hope his injured back heals in a timely fashion. While fully aware of the hill needed to climb to get back into the championship picture if he is able to return, Hamlin remains optimistic.
“If everyone keeps getting these penalties, I’m going to be the points leader soon,” he joked.